Tuesday, February 27, 2007


UC Skates on Fines -- Will LANS?

UC exempt from paying $1.1 million for violations

By ANDY LENDERMAN | The Santa Fe New Mexican, February 27, 2007

The University of California violated nuclear safety rules at Los Alamos National Laboratory 15 times in 2005, but the university won't pay for it.

As a nonprofit institution, the university is exempt from the fines covered by a federal law that regulates nuclear safety at the lab. The university managed the lab until June 1, 2006.

The university would have paid a record-breaking $1.1 million in fines had they not been exempt, which would have been the largest single penalty ever in the history of the Department of Energy's nuclear safety program.

Monday's announcement by the National Nuclear Security Administration centers on three events from 2005: a March incident where four workers received minor uptakes of radioactive material; a July incident where at least two people were contaminated with americium-241 and a contaminated package was accidentally sent across the country; and a November inspection performed by the department that revealed many problems in the lab's environment, health and safety programs.

Tom D'Agostino, the head of the administration, wrote lab Director Michael Anastasio earlier this month that future fines against the new lab manager, Los Alamos National Security LLC, will not be waived.

"My (expectation) is the prompt and aggressive completion of corrective actions focused at resolving underlying causes will be one of your highest priorities," D'Agostino wrote. "This expectation will serve as the standard to which I will hold you during future enforcement deliberations, should they become necessary."

University spokesman Chris Harrington said in a statement Monday that the university has taken a number of corrective actions to fix the problems outlined by the department. "The University of California takes safety and security issues very seriously as part of our commitment to managing the national laboratories," Harrington said.

The university is one of four partners in Los Alamos National Security LLC, which also includes the construction giant Bechtel.

Pete Stockton of the watchdog group Project on Government Oversight criticized the department for taking nearly two years to investigate and take action. "It's so far from the event," Stockton said. "And then of course there's no penalty."

The Department of Energy is authorized by the federal Price-Anderson Amendments Act of 1988 to regulate contract companies that break nuclear safety rules.

So how have the lab's environment, health and safety programs changed under LANS from the way UC ran them? Keeping in mind that LANS gets over $70 million a year to run LANL while UC only got $6 million.
So what's the Lab Public Affairs office going to say now..."see, we're even harder on ourselves than is the government is on us." What, we give ourselves 10 lashes with a wet noodle, as opposed to the government who gives us none? With observations like that we're supposed to also believe UC takes safety and security seriously? Indeed, we're supposed to believe LANS, which is 51% UC controlled, is somehow different from the 63 years past when UC reigned supreme in Los Alamos? I guess the old adage will always apply when it comes to UC and Los Alamos, namely you can never overestimate the gullibility of the U.S. citizenry, the stupidity of their elected representatives, and the audacity of the DOE. What a volatile mix this all makes...and now we proceed to make Pu our an cottage industry in northern New Mexico?
Public Affairs Office?
What Public Affairs Office?
They don't exist anymore.
Oh yeah, they're called the "Communications Office."
Of course, they never really existed anyway for all the good they did.
15 times in 2005 computes to 1 every 16 or so days assuming there were about 248 work days in 2005. Surely there are other entities that have to follow "nuclear safety rules"? Who determines these rules? Are they industry rules that make sense or LANL/DOE rules that are patched together in a way that creates conflicts? And is there a ranking of these violations like a ranking of traffic violations where running a red light is more serious than speeding? Or are all rules equivalent?

The point - The New Mexican can't figure out the 5 w's of reporting so who knows what the real safety issues might be.
Sorry to say that I agree with POGO for once. Two years to investigate these accidents? TWO YEARS? DOE and NNSA have zero credibility in managing safety. ZERO.

I'd like to remind Congress of the fatal accident at Savannah River that happened near that time (the worker that got crushed trying to load a backhoe onto a trailer), and the myriad other near-fatal accidents at other DOE sites.

How much funding does DOE/NNSA allocate to LANL that gets down to the worker for safety? ZERO. What's the charge number for safety meetings, safety reviews, and what do we charge to buy much needed safety equipment? There is NO charge code. Workers have to charge for safety items out of programatic funding, funding already under severe duress under the weight of $175M of non-productive costs brought by LANS.

So we soldier on under the burden of increasing layers of inept management and await the next safety incident or security lapse. Events that could be prevented if instead of hiring LANS at the astounding annual cost of $175 million, some of that funding was actually allocated to solving problems.

Brilliant move to hire LANS, D'Agastino. Brilliant move, Bodman. What were you thinking?
Pat - interesting article on Sandia and security.

Stockton is an idiot. He is completely clueless. The reason that UC does not get fined is that their management fee is a pittance.

This is yet another example of POGO's incompetence.
A good indicator of how effective an organization is at bringing to surface reality is the reaction they get from those who'd prefer that reality not be exposed. 10:24AM's back-hand directed at POGO (Stockton) says volumes as to the reason why we're viewed as arrogant and resistent to change. So who's the real idiot in this scenario?
Wait until LANS gets hit with 10 CFR 824 enforcement. Next shoe to drop.
anonymous at 2/27/2007 3:15 PM is naive.

How much liability exposure does s/he think that UC would take on for the $7M management fee? Bell Labs was simlarly protected when it managed Sandia for $1 per year.

The new contract removes the indemnification. SO, all of the bidders (including LANS) set up limited liability corporations (LLCs). That way the parent corporations (Bechtel et al) can siphon off the profits but are shielded from all liability. The dumbasses at the DOE did not figure this out when they wrote the Request for Proposal.
The 4:35pm poster hit the huge problem with DOE's approach to contracting squarely on the heads. LLCs are nothing more than fake storefronts that shield the deep pockets of the companies that created them. Any halfway intelligent first semester law school student will tell you that... DOE could fine LANS the complete $79 million and not a drop would come out of the bank accounts of the parent corporations, but it would come out of LANL's budget... there is no real accountability for UC, Bechtel, BWXT or WGI... or any parent of an LLC in the DOE contracting world, and there's no real incentive for the parent corporations to actually care about the LLC they created.
As some of the brainiacs have pointed out, there is a reason they are called "limited liability corporations." Now, you just need D.C. to understand the concept...
And, the LANS LLC is incorporated as a "small business" for an initial five year period for enhanced favoritism under the FARS.
"...under the FARS..."
You got me with THIS acronym: Is it a misspelling or a play on "farce"?
"FARS" = FARs = Federal Acquisition Regulations. Required to be complied with and stated in all federal contracts.
""...under the FARS..."
You got me with THIS acronym: Is it a misspelling or a play on "farce"?"

Yup, perhaps "FARs" would have been better. FARs = Federal Acquisition Regulations.

...and indeed "farce" befits the situation.
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